(Note from Anne: This may be the first connect-the-dots article I wrote over two years go, one that synthesizes my own philosophy on self-image and self-esteem; the powerful players — mostly men — who promote size 0 women in the fashion industry; the movement to desexualize women since the late 90s by taking away any muscles or curves; and the larger movement afoot to disempower women worldwide.
Since its original writing, these topics are communicated frequently at AOC in what I daresay is a losing battle for women, if we don’t get our butts in gear.
The title of the article is only picked up in my final words — we can reprogram our brains to hate size 0 fashion ads, if we choose. Rather than break this article in two — which a good editor would now do — we will leave it as one of my meandering, touch all the pulse point articles that I’m known for. My self-editing skills are far better today, than when I first began writing.
A new article appeared in Science Daily today, one that reinforces my own argument that we can reprogram our brains — in this case about food choices, which I also believe in and practice in my own life.
When is see one of those mouthwatering images of a biggie-burger with cheese, what really goes through my mind is a vision of a burger that will kill me prematurely, destroy my sexuality, make me fat and not Sensual and Superyoung. It will also make me stupid and contribute to the fact that I will dislike the woman in the mirror (me) if I respond favorably to this immediate gratification.
I have convinced myself that the burger is poison and best worn as American art or fashion, and not food.
I’ve struggled very hard over the years to control my weight. The only solution I know of is this one — to develop a host of mental bullets that I use against both size 0 models only as a beauty standard (I have no objections to some) and food messages offering me immediate gratification with a 1500 calorie burger that will kill me early.
Self-control is much stronger than we believe as a secret weapon in our self-development arsenal. As women we are not hamsters in the cage; we have the ability to turn our brains into our best friend, putting us in charge for once. Not ads, not fashion designers in Paris, not the business establishment, not peer pressure and popular culture. The last challenge is the most difficult of all.
As these scientists confirm in today’s learnings about the brain and self-control, the learnings have applications in many other aspects of our lives. I argue they can be applied to our own self-perceptions and how we respond to ridiculously emaciated women in fashion ads.
I am studying all the new research concerning mind power, since I wrote this essay and will issue a new essay that beings in the brain soon. Anne
The Cultural Reasons Why Women Should Reprogram Our Brains To Hate Size 0 Fashion Ads and Anything Other Commercial Message Not Good for Mind and Body
80s powerhouse supermodel Cindy Crawford told German celebrity magazine Bunte that she would stand no chance of being a successful model today.
Desensualizing the Supermodels
Cindy’s healthy athletic figure was the rage in the 80s and 90s, along with Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour. Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer and more.
As a former Victoria’s Secret exec who worked with many of these models, I know we are in a time warp with today’s fashion designers, who care most of all about themselves and their brands. Neither models nor consumers penetrate the minds of today’s fashion patriarchy.
Models exist as coat hangers for fashion designers, experts explain, asking why women like me can’t get that reality through my pretty blond head. As fashion hangers, women must be as thin as humanly possible.
The problem is, this image does become deeply entrenched in the human psyche — among women and men. Much scientific research documents the fact that human minds process ad images as intended. Otherwise, why would advertising exist?
The Old Days
80s supermodels proved that you could be healthy and slim, that you had breasts (god forbid) and often hips and a booty besides. Simply stated, as a supermodel, you were thin but sensual. The vast majority of us would never look like any of these supermodel women, but it wasn’t dangerous to our health and wellbeing to try. It’s estimated that one in four women could achieve a 4-6 US supermodel body if she put her mind to it and stayed the course.
Sensual supermodels are now called a ‘relic of the past’, although most have been called up out of retirement the past two years. Believe it or not, they continue to have style credibility.
It irks me to no end that Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld, and the guys at Ralph Lauren in their Photoshop mishaps, try to brush off what is a very real change in the bodies of women who are suitable for modeling today. Now do I accept the current state of affairs as an example of ‘change is good’.
When I saw this leg photo of a model in Karl Lagerfeld’s Spring 2010 runway show, I gasped. My calling these women ‘concentration camp survivors’ is not an exaggeration. If Filippa Hamilton looked like the 80s supermodels at the top of this article, her Photoshopped self looks like the woman above.
Today that model — Isabelle Caro — is dead of anorexia.
Absolutely, the Supemodels models begin to look “fat” — not womanly and healthy — against photos like the one above, and it plays with our brains, especially given the larger societal peer pressures at work.
Karl Lagerfeld, now a 95-pound man, but formerly a fat one, has become the global ‘female body standard dictator’, who told the magazine Focus in October 2009 that ‘no one wants to look at a woman with curves.’
Looking at Natalia Vodianova’s body in Vogue’s May 2009 issue, photographed by Steven Meisel, in a series called The Great Pretender, I wonder if the design guys believe she’s ‘too fat’, too. With three children under those abs, will Vodianova soon be like in-demand Lara Stone, saying that she’s tired of being the fat girl at size 4?
As you’ll see in a moment, Lara Stone is anything but ‘fat’. Lagerfeld used her in what I wrote is a totally vacuous, Chanel commercial. See Chanel Dressing Room Movie Suppresses Sensuality Under the Weight of Material Desire. at Sensuality News.
I want some fashion editor to hand Karl Lagerfeld a pile of photos of nearly naked women (or in the buff) and check off ‘fat’ or ‘not fat’.
The insistence that women pursue size zero bodies is not only dangerous to our health, but it smacks of a strong preference that women remain submissive and non-threatening.
Muscle lust is disruptive to the psyches of men like Karl Lagerfeld. The Chanel visionary may be an enormously talented designer and fabulously creative person, but he is a tyrant with strong women.
I can’t imagine what Karl says about us in private, based on his public comments.
Women need to understand that there are prominent men who genuinely loathe women. Their mindset isn’t vastly different from the morality police, looking for a glimpse of ankle in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, and conducting breast-feel inspections in Somalia.
As women, we let the people who detest us define us, setting our own vision of who we must be in the mirror. It’s a vicious cycle of women never measuring up.
Lara Stone in Karl Lagerfeld’s “Fitting Room Follies”
Why do so few male voices control us? We let them dominate our psyches, and then we women turn their negative views about women on ourselves and each other. So much for liberation.
Unlike Robin Givhan who argues that the fashion industry is only responding with the anti-statement to America’s out of control obesity, I believe that American women’s self-hatred and discomfort with body image leads to more eating and heaps more self-loathing.
American Women Are Hampsters in the Cage
There are multiple reasons why American women are so overweight, and a lack of self-discipline is clearly on the list. So is religion that condemns women as sinful and inherently evil sexually, and a food industry that says “biggie size it?” We have the American woman’s pursuit of perfection under impossible circumstances. and let me not forget that we are consumed with being judgmental over ourselves.
Ladies, we have learned our humility lessons well.
We’re all Eve in our own minds, responsible for the downfall of virtue and creation of suffering in every corner of the world. Hence, we must be told what to do by men like Karl Lagerfeld and Ralph Lauren, whose WASP imagery doesn’t speak to the liberation of women at all.
These same psychological, bad-woman challenges, dog women worldwide. Some cultures tongue-lash; others get out the whip. Women become collaborators in making other women feel badly.
How much is anthropological and how much learned behavior, I don’t know. But a woman can choose to “just say no”.
Fortunately, we have an exception. The French women have done the best at escaping outside influences that define them and are known for having a confident, holistic, sensual independence. We American women try to discredit this notion, but the French woman really does exist. I spent years with her.
Based on their body image and aging responses in Dove’s global beauty studies, the Italian and Brazilian women, as well as the French, are also far ahead of the American women in the self-love and self-respect departments.
Only when we turn off all those mostly male, patriarchal voices, stand in front of the bathroom mirror naked, and say “I love you”, will be begin to dig ourselves our of this rut. This is scientifically possible, and I will explain.
Loving ourselves, considering ourselves worthy and valuable as women is sinful, egotistic and not behaving in a virtuous manner in many societies. Only when our heads are humbly down are we in a virtuous position in many cultures or religions.
Maureen Dowd reminded us this weekend that Pope Benedict wrote a document in 2004, urging women to be submissive partners, resisting any adversarial roles with men and cultivating “feminine values” like “listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting.” via The Nun’s Story
Dealing with religious authorities is enough of a challenge for women worldwide. Defending ourselves as spiritual creatures in the onslaught of guilt is draining to many women around the world.
The dictatorial body-image guilt of the fashion industry has got to go. Our relationship with God and religious authorities is one thing to work on. Karl Lagerfeld and the fashion industry are small potatoes in the real meaning of life and not worth our mental energy.
We should not expect fashion to ‘get real’, especially in a world where size 4 Lara Stone is “curvy”, translated fat. As luxury moves Eastward, into more patriarchal societies with generally smaller and more obedient Asian women, that this emaciated trend will continue.
The size zero model will not become part of a wider roster of fashion imagery, until we kiss fashion goodbye. Cindy Crawford tells women to do just that.
Add the fact that we live in the airbrushed digital age, when women can become anything men wish visually, and you can expect us to become caricatures of our real selves. There’s unimaginable power in that computer design mouse, trust me.
The word “curvy” evolved as a positive word for women over size 12 or 14. It was a form of positive psychology to get plus-size women to love themselves and see their own beauty. In loving themselves, we hoped they would get healthy and care about eating more nutritiously.
Today, ‘curvy’ and ‘plus’ size describe the 80s supermodels, who are now fat and plus-size. This is insane. If I can’t be satisfied looking like Cindy Crawford (I don’t), then let’s just give up on fashion. It’s become totally Kafkaesque and destructive to our sanity.
As fashion victims, we behave like sheepish women who never ask for a raise but complain about not getting one. We wait for men to see and validate our value. Without their affirmation, we must not be worth much.
Where’s the liberation in kowtowing to men who don’t like us in the first place?
Did Coco Chanel kowtow? No. Katherine Hepburn? Nada. Angelina Jolie or Madonna? Not on your life. So what’s our damn problem that we are dictated to by men who deny that a woman with any curves is beautiful?
Maybe when babies are born in incubators in the future, then women will lose their curves. Today, biology is destiny, within reason.
It’s time for a return to Curve Power. Let’s have models with personalities, who do good work for people in the planet, whatever their size 0-14. Perhaps designer egos are totally out of control, thinking that women are coat racks for clothes. Let’s show them we’re not fashion road kill.
Perhaps we need a fourth wave of feminism, one that is a true international collaboration among women of every age, size, marital status and sexuality persuasion.
In a bit of encouraging news, my earlier post Every Woman Should Own a Copy of “Uncovered” & Watch Meredith Viera’s NBC “Today Show” interview with Jordan Matter is gaining some Internet traction, moving into our top 10 articles the last several days.
This article was written before the Ralph Lauren incidents and focuses on the challenges that women have accepting our naked bodies as beautiful, not disgusting. Meredith’s interview was very well done, and I urge you to watch the video.
After watching the Today Show interview and reading about Jordan Matter’s book “Uncovered”, think about another fact of female physiology, one in your own brain.
I can imagine your response, when I wrote “just say no” to totally unhealthy and unattainable and undesireable fashion-industry images. You think that because these images are everywhere, that you must absorb them.
Not true. As a woman of any size, you can train your brain to hate the model and even the brand, not yourself for failing to live up to the size zero standard of beauty.
The Brain’s Reticular Activating System of RAS
The brain system controlling our conscious perceptions is called the ‘reticular activating system’ or RAS. This data filtering brain mechanism asks three essential questions while processing billions of data bits in minutes: 1. Is the information important for our survival? 2. Is the information new or different? 3. Does the information have high emotional content for us?
You’ve read about visualization techniques, and heard expressions like “mind over matter”. This is the essence of RAS.
In my case, I’ve programmed my mind to reject body images that look like concentration-camp victims because I know that they are unhealthy and deadly. I’m too smart a woman to be led around by the nose, with fashion imagery that kills and maims women.
Today, my brain responds favorably only to photos of the 80s supermodels as beautiful, healthy, desirable women. I adore Lara Stone but not if she becomes a size zero. I do exercise frequently and I admit that being attractive is important to me.
My brain totally rejects as ugly, non-sexual, and powerless the images of Karl Lagerfeld women. I am so opposed to their effect on me, that I’m not even aware that my RAS brain system wouldn’t let them pass into my conscious mind.
Free at last! The tyranny is over! You can do the same, ladies, just like an indy French woman.
You can override fashion industry images with your brain’s own RAS system. You can implement the same system with food ads (Big Macs and Whoppers make me retch, and it’s all mental) and any other commercial message you chose to ignore.
So ladies, we have far more power over our minds than we realize. As consumers, we do not have to accept any standard of beauty the industry perpetuates. Just make them into harmful, negative, hated RAS messages and your brain will respond pronto.
Do not be ambivalent. This is a willful decision on your part, and you must remain consistent.
If you’re hot (or want to be) and you’d like to kick a little butt in life, you must have better legs to stand on, than the ones favored by Karl Lagerfeld.
Steven Klein Shoots Lara Stone in W Mag’s The Academy
However, as a strong Smart Sensuality woman who likes fashion, you do not have to accept size zero models as a gold standard of beauty, because “no one loves curves.”
Lagerfeld’s statement condemns women, and we don’t have to swallow the Kaiser’s opinions, when he freely admits that he has no sensual response to women in the first place.
Strong, deeply sensual, Amazonian women like the 80s supermodels are Karl Lagerfeld’s worst nightmare. Both Freud and Jung would agree on that fact. In the same way that Steven Klein imbues Lara Stone with power in The Academy, Karl Lagerfeld takes it away in “Fitting Room Follies”
Tell your RAS system to only admit messages from men who truly love women not as property, or commercial revenue, or as submissive helpmates, or lesser beings of any sort, and you will surround yourself with men (and women) who will speed you on the road to self-confidence and self-love in countries that allow it legally.
Of course, only you can drive your own roadster.
I promise you, there is relief ahead from fashion-image tyranny and sniping fashionistas, if you put yourself in charge of your own RAS system, train it to loathe designers who don’t love real women, and don’t take your foot off the gas pedal for ANY reason.
Love to all. Anne